After a tornado outbreak swept through northern Alabama in 2011, Ascend Performance Materials LLC sprang into action. The Houston, Texas-based company provided housing for employees from their Decatur facility who lost everything, and volunteers from the company helped with cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Out of that tragedy, it founded the Ascend Cares Foundation to support Ascend families and their local communities during times of need.
A partnership among Ascend employees, resident contractors and vendor partners, Ascend Cares enables community outreach through direct assistance to employees facing special hardships, grants to support employees’ philanthropic efforts and company volunteerism. It matches funds raised by employees to help with natural disasters, and organizes its employees to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Throughout the year, each site location leads volunteer events to increase community events and helps with local organizations such as food banks, animal shelters and schools.
Ascend has five manufacturing facilities and a technology center in the U.S., with approximately 3,000 employees and contractors. It manufactures and supplies premium chemicals, fibers and plastics products for use in various commercial and industrial products.
Tom Boggs, nylon site director at Ascend’s facility in Pensacola, Fla., serves as the foundation’s board chairman. “I’ve been with Ascend for 20 years, and we’ve always been extremely active in our communities and with United Way,” he says. “The great thing about Ascend Cares is that it is funded by our employees. Every dollar they donate is matched dollar-for-dollar by the company.”
After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in 2017, Ascend Cares facilitated more than 180 volunteers who cleaned and repaired 55 homes and served more than 1,000 meals to Ascend employees. Flood victims in Louisiana in 2016 benefited from financial assistance, and team members volunteered to remove water-damaged materials from homes in Baton Rouge.
Ascend Cares also awards college scholarships to team members’ children annually. Since its founding, it has awarded 53 scholarships totaling $106,000.
Although the foundation was originally started to help the company’s employees during times of natural disaster, it later branched out to provide assistance to other families in their communities. Over the past five years, the company has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build five homes on-site at Ascend’s facilities in Alvin, Texas, Greenwood, S.C., and Decatur for local families.
In February, Ascend Cares volunteers from the Chocolate Bayou site in Alvin completed a medical clinic for an organization that takes in and cares for hundreds of children each year who have been separated from their families due to abuse and abandonment. Volunteers located an unused garage space ideal for the purpose and began construction. Ascend Cares purchased medical equipment and furniture to complete the project. Most recently, Ascend Cares volunteers in Houston worked with Trees for Houston by planting 24 trees at a local elementary school.
“I’ve been on the Board of Directors for other charitable organizations, and I’ve never seen employees be so engaged as they’ve been with Ascend Cares,” Boggs says.
Jahna Peloquin is a writer and editor based in Minneapolis, Minn.